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Multilateral approaches to nitrogen pollution are generating synergies between climate change and food security and presenting opportunities to reduce nitrous oxide (N2O) globally. N2O is the most abundant ozone-depleting substance not yet regulated by the Montreal Protocol and a powerful greenhouse gas. Failure to reduce emissions will delay ozone layer recovery and worsen the climate crisis. While cost-effective mitigation technologies to reduce N2O emissions are available, policies and incentives to encourage the uptake of such measures are lacking. The G20, whose membership includes the world’s largest food exporters and fertilizer consumers, is positioned to advance N2O mitigation by supporting coordinated multilateral action. G20 leadership on N2O can support food security by preventing drastic impacts of climate change on food production and safeguarding the ozone layer, which protects agriculture and biodiversity from harmful ultraviolet B radiation. It can also support the achievement of countries’ net-zero climate goals and nationally determined contributions.

PxD and IGSD are partnering on an initiative to collaboratively identify opportunities for innovation in climate change mitigation, particularly for the greenhouse gases most problematic in agricultural production, methane, and nitrous oxide, as well as carbon dioxide. This initiative includes four analytical pieces on the opportunities for climate change mitigation by smallholder farmers.

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is both an ozone-depleting substance that damages the stratospheric ozone layer and one of the most potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) contributing to global climate change. As with almost all GHG emissions linked to anthropogenic processes, N2O emissions have increased significantly in recent decades. Agriculture is the main driver for these increases,11 with up to 71% of the increase in emissions from the 1980s to 2007-2016 coming from direct agricultural emissions. In particular, scientists have pointed to the use of nitrogen fertilizer as a key reason for the increasing N2 O atmospheric burden. Most smallholder farmers rely on their own judgment or blanket nitrogen fertilizer recommendations, which can miss critical variations in soil and crop nitrogen needs. Offering farmers in the Global South an accessible and user-friendly way to use nitrogen more efficiently will thus not only help reduce the environmental impact of the use of nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture but also improve farmers’ productivity and profits. Addressing the precision nutrient management gap for smallholder farmers in the Global South is a critical priority for achieving both anti-poverty and climate change goals, especially as the use of nitrogen fertilizer in Global South countries rises in coming years to meet increasing global food demands.